Pope criticizes ‘reactionary’ conservative elements in U.S. Catholic Church


Pope Francis spoke out against what he described as the “reactionary” nature of more conservative elements of the U.S. Catholic Church, arguing that some are replacing faith with ideology.

Speaking earlier this month at a private meeting with Portuguese members of the Jesuit order, of which he is also a member, Pope Francis said that some “American groups” were “isolating themselves.”

“Instead of living by doctrine, by the true doctrine that always develops and bears fruit, they live by ideologies,” he continued. “When you abandon doctrine in life to replace it with an ideology, you have lost, you have lost as in war.”

Some conservative Catholics in the United States have been forceful critics of the pope in his decade-long papacy, opposing his positions on certain theological and social issues, such as the environment and migration.

Pope Francis at 10 years: He has made his mark, but early hope has faded

A transcript of the Aug. 5 meeting was published in the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, which the Associated Press reports is vetted by the Vatican.

During the conversation, a member of the order who spent a year in the United States said he was upset by criticism of the Pope’s leadership, even among bishops.

The situation in the United States is “not easy,” the pope responded. “There is a very strong reactionary attitude. It is organized and shapes the way people belong, even emotionally.”

He also cautioned against those he said were disconnecting themselves from the “roots of the church” by going “backward.”

This is not the first time that the pontiff has responded to criticism from conservatives within the U.S. Church. In 2019, when asked about criticism from conservative commentators, he said: “It’s an honor that the Americans attack me.” A Vatican spokesman later sought to clarify that the pope “was speaking in an informal context in which he wanted to say that he always considers criticism an honor.”

Among the Francis’ main U.S. detractors is Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, a figure who often made headlines before he was demoted in 2014. According to Reuters news agency, Burke recently wrote that a key meeting of bishops to discuss the Church’s future set to take place in October risked sowing “confusion and error and division.”

Following a decision from the pope in April, women will be able to vote in the Synod of Bishops for the first time at the assembly, with 70 non-bishops appointed with voting rights — half of them women. Women cannot be ordained as deacons, priests or bishops in the Catholic Church, however.

A Vatican document released in June said that the Synod should discuss how to make the Church more welcoming for LGBTQ+ people and those who have divorced.

Another point of contention for some Catholics came in 2021, when Francis reinstated limits on the use of Latin in Mass, which had increasingly become a symbol of conservative protest within the U.S. church.

These Americans are devoted to the old Latin Mass. They are also at odds with Pope Francis.


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